The Editors Guild of India today condoled the death of veteran journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea, describing him as an ardent champion of the freedom of the press.
87-year-old Bhattacharjea, a leading figure of the right to information movement, died at his home here yesterday after protracted illness. He is survived by a son and two daughters.
Besides strongly believing in the autonomy of the editor, he held that a newspaper editor was also accountable to his readers, the Guild said in a statement.
"Among the many issues he took up was the campaign against the proposed Defamation Bill which the Rajiv Gandhi government was keen to enact in the early 1980s. The Bill was subsequently withdrawn," T N Ninan and Coomi Kapoor of the Editors Guild said in the statement.
Bhattacharjea was one of the founder members of the Guild and played a leading role in establishing it following the Emergency. He was president of the Guild for three years.
In a career spanning 37 years, Bhattacharjea was the Editor of leading newspapers The Hindustan Times, The Times of India and Indian Express and after retirement had held the post of Press Institute of India Director among some of his assignments.
Born in Shimla in 1924, Bhattacharjea did his BA and MA from St Stephen's College in Delhi and began his journalistic career in 1946 as an apprentice sub-editor and reporter in The Hindustan Times.
In 1947, he flew to Srinagar soon after the first Indian troops had been sent there to repel the tribal invaders and returned to the state the following year to cover the Indo-Pakistan war.
Bhattacharjea joined The Statesman in New Delhi in 1951 and ten years later returned to The Hindustan Times as its correspondent in Washington and the United Nations. He came back to Delhi as the newspaper's Editor in 1967.
In 1971, he moved to Bombay as Resident Editor of The Times of India. He became a close associate of Jayaprakash Narayan and in 1975 he quit The Times of India to edit JP's weekly Everyman's.
When the weekly was closed during the Emergency, Bhattacharjea became the Editor of the Indian Express, which was one of the few newspapers to have spoken out against the draconian measure of the Indira Gandhi government.
After he retired from the Indian Express in 1983, Bhattacharjea served as Editorial Adviser of The Democrat, Nigeria, and then of the Deccan Herald, Bangalore.
He was also a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. In 1995, Bhattacharjea was appointed Director of the Press Institute of India where he edited the respected and intellectually-stimulating journal Vidura and launched Grassroots.
Editors Guild Condole Death of Ajit Bhattacharjea
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